The Truth About Other Countries Importing Costumes from Trinidad

Saucy, "The Sauce" author of  Trinidad Carnival Diary started a "Question and Answer Session with a Band Leader" a few weeks ago. Each Monday, Saucy asks the Band Leader a series of "Questions", which come from her site's readers. Readers are encouraged to ask the Band Leader anything they ever wanted to know about making of costumes and the running of a successful, popular Carnival band. Then on Wednesdays, Saucy posts the Band Leader's responses to the readers' questions.

These little sessions have proven to be quite informative for a Trinidad Carnival Lover, such as myself!  So today, I was thrilled when Saucy asked the Band Leader, a question that I posed to her in my May 30th post, "St.Lucia Carnival 2008: Red International NEW Blue Section" which was a response to two Trinidad Carnival Diary articles: "Is this a new trend?" and "Exporting the Greatest Show on Earth..."

I asked Saucy to find out "What really happens when other countries purchase costumes from Trinidad?" I wrote my article to clear the air about this particular St.Lucia Carnival Band. Despite my doing so, no one in that Carnival Band has contacted me.

Here are the Trinidad Carnival Diary Questions with a Band Leader for Wednesday, July 2, 2008 which reveal THE TRUTH ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES IMPORTING COSTUMES FROM TRINIDAD.

Saucy asks the questions, and the Band Leader's answers are in purple:

1.Do bands:
A) Sell unsold costumes to carnivals overseas?

Yes it happens from time to time.

or
B) Agree to make more than needed to supply their Trini band and the overseas band?

Sometimes, yes this is also done.

If the answer is A: Why do you have leftover costumes? Shouldn't they be made to order by masqueraders?
The reason for left over costumes is, you cannot wait for a section to sell out before you order the material needed to make it. In fact these materials are mostly ordered before a costume is sold. Carnival goods need to be ordered early so hopefully your stock will be here in Trinidad no later than October to start producing, Most importantly avoid the back log of Christmas cargo that always slows down the clearing of goods And here is one of the main reasons that investing in carnival is risky. Most times you make costumes based on past knowledge of what your`clients like, and what average sizes they order.So if you misjudge, you end up with extra costumes.

If the answer is B: Is this compromise worth it? Is the money it brings in worth annoying Trini masqueraders? How can designers justify it artistically when their costume is sold with a different section name and theme? Isn't it against the whole spirit and tradition of mas?
Most times foreign band owners who may buy costumes from certain local carnival bands may request a section used that same year in Trinidad.. Also it is not always the same people that own the local bands, own the foreign ones, but it maybe a franchise. In any event I agree that on the surface, it seems unfair, but as any manufacture will tell you, it cost less per unit to produce any item the more you make all at once. In other words if I made 200 costumes each would cost less, than if I made only 25. Foreign Carnival bands are small and most times struggling to survive. There just are not that many numbers to make it really profitable. So sometimes we make extra costumes, or sell extra ones during our carnival season, so as to promote our brand in another country. Remember a lot of these people who live and play abroad ,will come to Trinidad to also play mas.. Do not be confused you are not paying for, or aiding financially in anyway, foreign costumes. Costumes are priced and paid for on a per unit basis, (labor & material) and it would not make any business sense having one pay for the other . Each must stand on it's own profit.

Thanks Saucy for asking the tough questions. You made me feel like I'm doing my job! LOL!  

As for St.Lucian Bands and Trinidad Carnival costumes, this Sweet 7 reader, "Professor" said it best, "Red can't expect us to believe that they're so out of touch with carnival. Something like this has to be their business to know. I too tune into Saucy's blog on a daily and I follow the trends and designs from Trinidad yearly so I can recognize an import when I see one and so should at least one person in the Red camp.

Read Previous Article: Red International Blue Costume

Click here for: Every "Trinidad Carnival Diary Q&A Session with a Band Leader"

2 comments

  1. Yes I was glad to see the Band Leader FINALLY answered my question!

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  2. I agree, this Q & A segment that Saucy has introduced has really proven informative.
    The resale of costumes from TnT to other carnivals definitely makes sense if you really think about it. Theses bands down in TnT if you think about it can't make costumes on demand cause that's just not cost effective. If they have to wait to make a piece each time someone registers in that section the work would probably never get done & it'd cost them way too much, so mass production makes sense cause it saves time & money & it also makes sense that there would sometimes be pieces left over, sometimes more than expected. Each piece left over is money, money that could never be regained cause it's not like this piece can ever be played in Trinidad again. So if someone else wants it then why not. I think what really gets to the Trinidad revellers is the price for which these pieces go for in these other carnivals. As much as I understand why this increasing trend happens I too would be rather irate to know I paid the way too exorbitant price that they charge for costumes in TnT mass & that weeks to months later someone else in some other carnival gets the exact same costume for half if not more of the price that I paid. So I guess the biggest explanation I'd look forward to from Saucy's anonymous band leader would be the price differences. How is it these other bands can afford to charge the prices that they do but to play in Trinidad calls for a years worth of saving.
    By the way thanks for the acknowledgment Nyree lol I'm glad & grateful for the opportunity & forum that this site allows me & others to be able to be ale to make these contributions as it relates to the ins & outs of carnival & its processes from start to finish. I'd only hope that the band leaders home are seeing this & make similar efforts to address questions bout any & every aspect of this festival as they & we the public sees fit.
    A suggestion for when you go home would be a spotlight on each of the bands. A similar Q & A segment with each of the band leaders. You can pose it to your readership to send you whatever questions they'd like asked of 1 band leader in particular or all of them in general.

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